Keep It Low-Key
Your afternoons can get packed with cleaning up toys, preparing dinner, and cramming in a million other things. But if you're feeling stressed as you put your child into his crib, he'll pick up on your anxiety and have a harder time dozing off. Take a couple minutes to relax first, and allow your kid to also calm down: Give him a gentle massage or play soothing music on busy days. Close to naptime, avoid things that will get him riled up, like TV or a big meal. If you have to run errands, do it after his morning nap. That way, he'll have time to unwind from all the excitement.
Let Her Self-Soothe
If your kid wakes up during naps, fight the urge to rush in as soon as she cries. Toddlers can fall back to sleep on their own, but they'll only learn how to do this if you don't step in every time, says Judith Owens, MD, Parents advisor and associate professor of pediatrics at Brown University's Alpert Medical School, in Providence. Instead, give her a minute to quiet down by herself. If she doesn't, check in on her but don't pick her up or rock her back to sleep -- or she'll expect this every time she wakes up. The next day, wait for several more minutes before going in (and so on for a week). Eventually, she'll get tired of waiting for you and will fall asleep on her own.
Nix a Nap
As your child closes in on 2, you'll most likely discover that one snooze a day is enough. If your kid is resisting a nap because he's active, not cranky, it's probably a good time to rethink his schedule. Consider changing from two shorter naps to a longer midday one. You can make the transition easier by putting him to bed earlier at night. Doing this will help him feel well rested throughout the morning and he won't need to nap until early afternoon.
Originally published in the June 2009 issue of Parents magazine.